Hogan, an influential coach

Jimmy Hogan developed his love for the progressive, technically sophisticated game when he was a young professional at Fulham, early last century.


West Germany's World Cup winning manager, Helmut Schoen (in pic), idolised Jimmy Hogan, who nurtured his career in Dresden between the wars. Hogan, a Lancastrian of Irish descent, was arguably the greatest and most influential coach football has ever had. — Pic. GETTY IMAGES-

JIMMY HOGAN was arguably the greatest, most influential coach the game of football has ever had. He well deserved the excellent new biography by Norman Fox, ex-soccer correspondent and sports editor of The Times: though I wish he hadn't called it Jimmy Hogan: Prophet or Traitor? (Parrs Wood Press). It's a cheap title, unworthy of the man and unworthy of the book. I'd rather have called it: Prophet Without Honour, remembering the old Latin phrase, Nemo Profeta In Patria, meaning, No One Is a Prophet in his Own Country.

It was terribly true of Hogan, a Lancastrian from Nelson, of Irish descent, who could, in fact, have played inside right for Ireland before World War I, but turned the chance down. He believed passionately, if sometimes against the facts, that British players were the best in the world and had fallen behind only because of lack of coaching and misguided training. He it was who, under the wide guidance of Hugo Meisl, the Austrian supremo, inspired and groomed the great Austrian Wunderteam before and after the Great War: during which he found himself interned in Hungary, where, by common consent, he laid the basis of Hungarian football.

The climax came in November 1953 when the brilliant Hungarians including Puskas, Kocsis, Bozsik and Hidegkuti came to Wembley to thrash England 6-3 and thus lay waste their unbeaten home record against foreign teams. Which, in fact, had tottered 21 years earlier at Chelsea, when Hogan and Meisl had brought the Wunderteam to England. A 4-3 win for England — who, in fact, actually had a fifth goal ruled out because the final whistle had just blown — greatly flattered the home side.

Fox, a diligent researcher, has, in fact, shot down the accepted story that Hogan attended the England-Hungary game in the Royal Box, not because he had been invited by the Football Association but because he'd been asked by the Hungarians: who indeed never forgot him. Actually as Fox explains he attended the game in the public seats together with a batch of the young players he was then coaching with such success at Aston Villa, the club he had managed during the 1930s and 1940s.

"Get the ball in the bloody net, that's what I want!" he told me were the words of the Villa Chairman, impervious to Hogan's plea that attacks should be built up on shrewd passing. There is no doubt that in that period, English training methods were primitive and self-defeating to a degree. The crazy ideas was that sending the players round and round the pitch during the week was the ideal way to prepare them, since if they didn't see the ball then, they would be all the more eager to have it when the Saturday match arrived! The clear corollary of this, that when they did eventually get the ball they would not know what to do with it, was resisted.

Hogan developed his love for the progressive, technically sophisticated, game when he was a young professional at Fulham, early last century. There he was inspired by the short-passing ball-playing attitudes of a clutch of Scottish professionals, especially the skipper, Goldie, at whose house he was an endless and sometimes uninvited visitor, eager to acquire knowledge. It would indeed be the Scottish, short-passing style — and the Scots, remember, had in the 19th century invented the passing game itself — which would go out through such as Hogan to conquer the world.

As fate would have it, Hogan would return to Fulham in the latter 1930s as manager, but things went awry. The players seemed to resent his methods and his philosophy, and the club eventually sacked him when he was lying in a hospital bed. In the latter 30s, he was co-opted by Stanley Rous, the progressive, globally minded, Secretary of the FA, to help run coaching courses. As Fox shows us, for some reason Rous was not at all impressed by the way Hogan went about it, but the vast weight of evidence suggests that he was in a tiny minority. Ever since he first coached — in Holland, at Dordrecht, before the Great War — Hogan elicited admiration; though his debut in Vienna, also pre World War I, was a difficult one.

Willy Meisl, Hugo's brother, who spent his latter years as a distinguished sports journalist in London, told me that Hogan felt he just wasn't getting through to his pupils and was depressed. That evening Meisl talked to him for hours and from then on it was plain sailing. In Budapest when interned, he found star youngsters such as Braun and Orth in a public park, instilling his principles of skill — his own was phenomenal, well into old age — into the Hungarian game.

Yet, here I must make a couple of reservations. The first concerns coaching in itself. It's all very well if you happen to be a Hogan, a purist, who can himself superbly demonstrate the skills he wishes to impart. When I met him over 50 years ago, giving a lecture and a fascinating demonstration at a gloomy school in West London, he did precisely that. He made occasional jokes. When he was born, he said, his father "didn't know whether to heave a sigh or heave a brick." Lecturing soldiers in France at the start of World War II, he kept stressing the importance of "keeping the ball on the carpet," until a soldier teasingly asked, "What happens if you come to a ground where there isn't a carpet?"

Alas, few coaches indeed are Hogans. And how horrified he would have been to see the whole FA coaching department, under the egregious rule of Long Ball Charlie Hughes, embracing the anti philosophy of his bete noire, Direct Route Football, which meant indiscriminate use of the long boot out of defence, bypassing midfield.

It was a horrific orthodox, which has done deep harm to the English game.

Secondly, with all respect to what Hogan did for Hungarian football, was the great team of the 1950s a flash in the pan? The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 found Puskas, Kocsis and Czibor playing abroad, and there they stayed. Without them the great Hungarian team and the myth of Hungarian superiority quickly collapsed. By the 1958 World Cup in Sweden — of course they should have won in Switzerland in 1954 but didn't — they were a mediocre side, which brutally kicked people.

Hogan had great success in Germany too between the wars, especially in Dresden where he nurtured the career of the prolific scorer Richard Hofman, who got a hat-trick against England, and the future West Germany World Cup winning manager, Helmut Schoen, who idolised him. As did, all those years later as juniors, such as Peter McFarland at Aston Villa and Tommy Docherty at Celtic both destined to become internationals. What might Hogan have done as England team manager?